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NRN Showdown

Wayback Burgers evokes nostalgia with a sense of humor

Clever limited-time offers and community involvement keeps the brand top-of-mind


Wayback Burgers is an all-franchised limited-service concept based in Cheshire, Conn., with around 150 locations in the United States and another 27 overseas.

It was founded in 1991 in Newark, Del., as Jake’s Hamburgers, which president Patrick Conlin said was a sort of roadside burger shack.

“[The original location] has a bullet hole in the window, if you look closely,” said Conlin, who joined the brand around seven years ago at the invitation of CEO John Eucalitto. “We’ve evolved since then.”

Eucalitto has been leading the brand since 2008 and began franchising it under the name Jake’s Wayback Burgers. The “Jake’s” was dropped around 2018.

It competes in the “Better Burger” segment and also offers chicken sandwiches and tenders, cheesesteaks, hot dogs, milkshakes, and a slightly wider range of sides than usual with options such as fried pickles, mac & cheese bites, tots, and bacon cheese fries.

Average tickets run around $25 — slightly less from guests who order at the counter and a bit more if guests order from the kiosks that are currently being rolled out.

The chain also recently relaunched its ordering app.

Conlin said the chain isn’t looking to conquer the world and is instead looking to grow thoughtfully with franchisees of a similar mindset to Wayback’s management.

“We don’t need to be the biggest better burger franchise,” he said. “We want to have the right people. We also have to go to sleep at night … and it’s a lot better dealing with nice people than people who are going to give you headaches or be unhappy in what they’re doing.”

Nonetheless, the chain is expanding at a decent clip, having recently entered Utah and Arizona. It’s first Louisiana location is slated to open soon in New Orleans.

All told, management anticipates 30 new domestic locations opening this year and another 20 internationally.

The name is meant to evoke nostalgia, and the chain tends not to build locations from the ground up but instead renovate existing locations to its specs.

Franchisees can anticipate spending between $550,000 and $700,000 on each location, Conlin said.

Community involvement is a priority for the chain, which has a national partnership with Boys & Girls Club of America, and franchisees are expected to be involved with local schools’ sports teams and other charities, which Conklin said helps build goodwill and introduce the brand to potential new customers.

Another marketing aspect of the chain is some of its more cheeky limited-time offers, such as The Royal Silencer, which was launched shortly after the release of British Prince Harry’s tell-all about the Royal Family. It had three patties instead of the usual two, and the extra one was called a “spare,” which was also the name of the book.

At the time, Conlin said “We designed The Royal Silencer to fill mouths to capacity with every bite to discourage spilling sensitive family drama to the media and general public.”

And in the wake of Elon Musk renaming Twitter “X,” Wayback launched The “X” Burger, made with 10 patties (presumably because X is the Roman numeral for 10) and selling for $29.99 except for people named Elon, for whom it was free.

“Did we sell a lot of ‘X’ Burgers or Royal Silencers? No. But it got us mentioned in a lot of different places … and maybe it made you look at the menu and come into one of our restaurants,” he said.

More conventional LTOs are also introduced more-or-less quarterly, including the current Southwest Burger, pistachio shake, and chili cheese tots.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

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